Go Dragons — a toast to 2020! From left: Athletics Director and Carl R. Pacifico Professor of Neuropsychology Eric Zillmer, PsyD; Director of Rowing Paul Savel; and Trustee Emeritus and Drexel alumnus George Krall.
Athletics is playing an increasingly visible and important role in the perception and life of Drexel University, championing University pride as student-athletes don blue and gold for Drexel and over 3,000 Drexel students visit the Daskalakis Athletic Center each day to take charge of their lives. Drexel’s athletic teams play a national schedule and have made their mark in NCAA Division I athletics as well as in academic graduation success rates. This creates a can-do attitude on campus that has become a metaphor for our institution’s aspirations. There is much to be proud of.
Here are my favorite Drexel Athletics moments, in no particular order, from 2019:
Denise Dillon’s 300th Win With Women’s Basketball
Head Coach Denise Dillon, the program’s winningest coach, earned her 300th career victory with Women’s Basketball back on Feb. 17, 2019 as the Dragons cruised past Northeastern at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, 76-45. It came as the 10th consecutive win of a streak that lasted a season-high 12 games. Defense was key for the Dragons as Drexel boasted the nation’s best defense in terms of points allowed last season. Dillon guided DU to its second-straight CAA title game and its third in the last four years. The team then earned a bid to the WNIT, making its 10th postseason appearance in the last 11 years. During the summer of 2019, the women’s basketball team also traveled to Greece and competed against the Greek national team. A busy and successful year, congrats!
Mert and Joanne Hill endowed the Drexel Wrestling Head Wrestling Coach position, which is now the University’s first named male coaching position. The endowment was made possible through the generosity of two Drexel alumni, Albert “Mert” Hill ’67 and Joanne Hill ’69. As a student in the College of Engineering, Mert Hill competed for Drexel Wrestling from 1962 to 1966, receiving the F.C. Walton Award in 1966, the year he served as co-captain, as the program’s most valuable performer. Joanne Hill graduated from Drexel’s College of Home Economics. Awesome — thank you!
Men’s Basketball Breaks Streak
In the winter of 2019, the men’s basketball team rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat the College of Charleston, 79-78. The win put an end to Charleston’s 22-game home winning streak — the second longest in the nation, at that time. The Dragons furiously played from behind to put themselves in a position to possibly win the game with a last second 3-point shot (unimaginable, really). But wait, senior Troy Harper, who was on Dragon fire, was fouled. After a lengthy review by the officiating crew and much bantering from the sizeable crowd at the TD Bank Arena on iconic King Street in Charleston, Drexel was awarded with three free throws, which is all that separated the Dragons from completing an epic night of college basketball. The crowd, now in a frenzy, was making its displeasure known over the call. Sitting behind the bench, I actually found myself holding hands with Drexel Trustee John Chapel ’67 and his wife Jinnie. Well, it worked. Harper hit all three FT’s, completing and awesome comeback and breaking Charleston’s winning streak. A night to remember!
Club Sports Are Making Their Mark — Including a National Championship!
Drexel sponsors over 30 club sports, many of whom play intercollegiate and several that compete on the national stage. In 2019, several club teams achieved national distinction. Men’s Soccer won the NIRSA Region 1 Soccer Championships defeating Boston College 4-3 on penalty kicks. Sailing competed in the 51st EDHEC Course Croisiere in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France. They finished 16th out of 32 teams in their division. Ice Hockey D1 team won the ECHA for the third consecutive year to qualify for the ACHA National Championships in Dallas, Texas. And Paintball won the NCPA National Championships in Kissimmee, Florida. It was their third national championship and first since 2010. Bravo!
Bubbles: A Historic First for Drexel Athletics
The opening of two Athletics Bubbles (i.e., air-supported sports structures) this fall created significantly more indoor athletic space at Vidas Athletic Complex and Buckley Recreational Field. The “bubbles” will be used for both varsity and recreation so Drexel Athletics can extend its sports outdoor season and provide more athletic opportunities for Drexel students, thanks to the bubbles’ temperature and climate control as well as its improved lighting. Now, this dome-covered soccer field can be used for everything from lacrosse, football, field hockey or even dodgeball. Thank you, Jackie and Stan Silverman and Marlene and Bob Buckley, for your generous support!
A National Leader in Academics
Dragon student-athletes finished the 2019 academic year with a cumulative GPA of 3.29. Drexel Wrestling earned the nation’s top team grade point average of 3.63, beating out top contenders American University (3.56), Harvard University (3.55) and Stanford University (3.42) to claim the honor. Five Drexel teams were also honored with the NCAA Academic Performance Program Public Recognition Award: men’s golf, men’s swimming, women’s lacrosse, women’s crew and, for the 10th straight time, women’s tennis. This award is given to teams that posted multiyear APRs in the top 10 percent of all teams in their respective sports. Very proud of our Dragons in the classroom!
Dragon Leadership Academy (DLA)
The DLA introduced a new curriculum during the 2018–2019 academic year called Habitudes. Approximately 120 first-year student-athletes completed the Habitudes Self Leadership Course, representing approximately two-thirds of our varsity athletes. These students made a commitment to being leaders on and off the field.
Bailey Greenberg, CAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year
Bailey Greenberg was named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. The North Wales, Pennsylvania, native averaged 17.2 points per game and led the team to the CAA title game for the second straight season. Greenberg became just the second Dragon ever to earn the award and the first since Gabriela Marginean won it 10 years ago. She was also named First Team All-CAA and to the CAA’s All-Defensive team.
Men’s Basketball — Battle of the Boardwalk Champs
When Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was built in the 1920s, it was the largest span structure in the world. It was awesome for the Dragons to play in such a magnificent facility. The Dragons played with an intensity and organization that matched the art deco of the Hall. They earned the championship trophy for this fun mid-major holiday tournament by getting by Quinnipiac University and then defeating Norfolk State University, which earlier upset Mid-American Conference member Bowling Green University. It was a fun weekend in AC! Congrats!
For the fourth consecutive year, Drexel Athletics helped drive the success of the University’s Day of Giving, an annual 24-hour fundraising drive supporting philanthropic participation and an increase in donors. This year, seven of the top 10 gift-producing University-wide organizations were athletic teams; 11 of Drexel’s top 20 spots were taken by Drexel Athletics. In total, Drexel Athletics produced 57 percent of Drexel’s total donations, with 2,931 gifts. Also, 2019 ushered in the Fink Family Scoreboard, a state-of-the-art LED display videoboard at Vidas Field, which marked the first phase of the Vidas Athletic Complex’s transformation benefitting our lacrosse and soccer programs. Special kudos to the Fink family for their support!
Hosting Major Athletic Events
Drexel Athletics once again hosted the NCAA Lacrosse Championships at Lincoln Financial Field over the 2019 Memorial Day weekend as well as the FS Investment U.S. Squash Men’s and Women’s Open Championships at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, for the ninth time. In addition, Drexel placed the winning bid for the 2023 CAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, which will be played in the Daskalakis Athletic Center for the second time. Hosting such large-scale athletics provides professional development opportunities for our staff and students, as well as national and international attention to our department and University.
Swimming and Diving Wins 12 Golds, 10 Silvers at CAAs
The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams impressed at the CAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Swimming and diving’s Alexa Kutch won four gold medals at the CAAs. She became the second CAA swimmer to sweep backstroke events in three straights. Alexa is one of the best Dragon athletes ever!
Drexel on TV
For the first time, Drexel Athletics and Dragons Sports Properties, the department’s multimedia rights holder, televised men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and wrestling events on NBC Sports Philadelphia+.
With the latest College Squash Association team rankings, Drexel men’s and women’s squash programs broke out their highest rankings yet. Both teams landed in the top five of their respective rankings; for the women’s team, that’s their highest ranking ever, and it’s a return to excellence for the men’s team, which last held that spot in 2017. Squash is Drexel’s highest nationally ranked sport.
Drexel’s men’s lacrosse team advanced to the CAA title game for the third time under head coach Brian Voelker. The fourth-seeded Dragons upset the top-ranked team, and reigning champion, University of Massachusetts on its home field, but ultimately lost to second-seeded Towson University.
Cam Wynter, CAA Rookie of the Year
Men’s basketball player Camren Wynter was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Rookie of the Year, becoming just the third Dragon to nab that title since Drexel joined the league before the 2001-02 season. Wynter, a freshman point guard, led all freshmen in the league in rebounding (4.5 rebounds per game) and was second in assists (5.4 assists per game).
Salma Ziouti of women’s tennis became the youngest Dragon to earn CAA First Team accolades, while Sinan Orhon of men’s tennis set a Drexel program record for career singles and doubles victories. Ziouti now has nabbed 40 singles victories in just her first two seasons, which means she is (so far) tied for 11th place on the University’s all-time leaderboard.
Connor Schmidt of men’s golf set a school record with an eight-under par 63 at Wildcat Invitational. Schmidt and teammate Michael Cook qualified for the U.S. Amateur; the first time two Dragons have ever qualified in the same season.
Softball advanced to the CAA Championships for the first time since 2005 and took home Drexel’s first-ever win in a CAA Tournament game. This season, Linda Rush set numerous program records including average, home runs and runs batted in.
Drexel rowing had another fantastic year building on their success over the past seasons. Women’s rowing won the Varsity 8 gold at the CAA Championships as head coach Paul Savell won the CAA Coach of the Year. Nationally ranked men’s rowing earned a bid to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships.